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In Vichy, a thousand variations on the portrait

In Vichy, a thousand variations on the portrait

The Portrait(s) Vichy Photography Festival is launching its 7th edition this summer: a panoply of faces captured by a bevy of artists. We bring you a sneak preview of their work.

Bastiaan Woudt’s striking portraits

Framed in elegant, opaque mist, the faces in the photographs stare you straight in the eye with great intensity, as if they were sizing you up … These few words encapsulate what one feels when looking at the series Mukono by Bastiaan Woudt. A self-taught Dutch photographer, Woudt created these images for the Marie-Stella-Maris Foundation which promotes access to fresh water in the Mukono region in Uganda. His portraits add a vibrant, meticulously composed note to the faces of African villagers whom he captures in their element.

Bastiaan Woudt portraits

“Mukono” Jeune fille en uniforme d’écolière © Bastiaan Woudt  
Bastiaan Woudt portraits

“Mukono” Lutalo © Bastiaan Woudt, Courtesy Kahmann Gallery, Amsterdam & Jackson Fine Art, Atlanta

Ukraine and the uniform by Michal Chelbin

The Israel-based photographer has spent several years traveling up and down Ukraine, documenting life inside military boarding schools. While young men are destined to become soldiers, young women must think of getting married and becoming good wives. By conforming to the expectations of adults, little boys in military getups and little girls in bridal dresses bring into question the lost part of childhood and the act of training, from an early age, the country’s ruling elite. How to Dance the Waltz underscores this sense of malaise provoked by the sight of a precocious child compelled to grow up before his or her time.

Michal Chelbin portraits

“How to Dance the Waltz” Aleira et ses amies. Ukraine, 2015 © Michal Chelbin  
Michal Chelbin portraits

“How to Dance the Waltz” Jeunes cadets, Ukraine, 2015 © Michal Chelbin

Poverty in Britain in the age of Thatcher by Tish Murtha

They look sad, confused, lacking direction, unemployed… The young people photographed by Tish Murtha represent the British working class of the 1980s. The artist has created arresting portraits of this impoverished, rudderless youth. The third of ten children, raised in a low-income neighborhood in Newcastle, the photographer knows misery first-hand. Her uncompromising testimony of incredible intensity is a must-see event at the Festival. The photographer died prematurely at the age of 56 in 2013.

Tish Murtha portrait
“Les enfants d’Elswick” 13 Kenilworth Road – Série Youth Unemployment, 1981 © Ella Murtha  
Tish Murtha portrait
“Les enfants d’Elswick” Pat Dack – Série Youth Unemployment, 1981 © Ella Murtha

Alice in the Land of Metamorphoses by Turkina Faso

This thirty-year-old photographer of Russian origin lives in London where she plies her trade in fashion and documentary photography. In her series Sister Alice, she documents the life of her sibling who stayed behind in Moscow to pursue her studies. The natural grace and the unusual face of this young woman make her a particularly interesting as a model. Her body sends vibrations through North Caucasian landscapes as she melds her destiny with untamed nature. Turkina Faso’s project spans a decade, revealing coming-of-age metamorphoses and tumultuous passage to adulthood.

Turkina Faso portrait

Série “Me and Them”, Back home with Alice, Rouge. Nord Caucase, Russie, 2015 © Turkina Faso  
Turkina Faso portrait

Alice, dans un train. Nord Caucase, Russie, 2015 © Turkina Faso

Benni Valsson’s tacit gaze

For about three years, the photographer has been working on subtle portraits of his native country, Iceland. As an antidote to the deadline rush accompanying commercial or magazine commissions, he takes his time when making these images. They are shot outdoors with a view camera amid changing seasons and urban landscapes. Benni Valsson combines portraits of ordinary people and of Icelandic celebrities—poets, dancers, filmmakers, visual artists…—in intense, sober encounters.

Benni Valsson portrait

“Nokkurs Konar Heimkoma – A sort of Homecoming” Styrmir Örn Gudmundsson, à Eidistorg, Reykjavik, octobre 2017 © Benni Valsson  
Benni Valsson portrait
“Nokkurs Konar Heimkoma – A sort of Homecoming” David Thor Jonsson et Birta Frodadottir avec leur nouveau né et leur chien Fjödur à côté de leur maison vers Àlafoss, juin 2016 © Benni Valsson

A panoply of selfies by Olivier Culmann

The photographer, a member of the collective Tendance Floue, received carte blanche to create an exhibition on the theme of the selfie. Branded in 2002, selfies, or self-taken photographs intended to be sent to someone else, took the planet by storm, redefining interpersonal communication and self-representation. Whether a selfie is taken by a tourist, a celebrity, or an artist, it is invariably an auto-fiction that spawns mises-en-scene in meaningful decors. Olivier Culmann’s project combines amateur and art photography in order to shed some light on the inexhaustible potential of this new practice and on the trends it has brought about in the world of photography.

Olivier Culmann portrait

“Selfies, égaux / égos” © DR

Philippe Halsmann’s big leap

The American photographer Philippe Halsmann (1906–1979) invented “jumpology,” or the practice of photographing celebrities in mid-leap, which is meant to lend greater spontaneity to the portrait. From Marilyn Monroe to Groucho Marx and Salvador Dali, many famous personalities decided to play along. Thanks to the participation of the Magnum Agency, the exhibition presents a sizeable collection of 60 jumpology photos.

Philippe Halsmann portrait

“Studio Halsman” Groucho Marx, acteur américain, 1952 © Philippe Halsman / Magnum Photos  
Philippe Halsmann

“Studio Halsman” Ava Gardner, actrice américaine, 1954 © Philippe Halsman / Magnum Photos

A residency, a photo contest, and homework…

Ambroise Tézenas has been awarded a photography residency that aims to show the city of Vichy in a fresh perspective. A portrait photography contest is open to all, amateur and professional photographers alike. Lastly, an exhibition will feature the works of local school children.

By Jean-Baptiste Gauvin

Portrait(s) Vichy Photography Festival

June 14 to September 8, 2019

Vichy (03200)

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